Things go sour pretty quickly. I mean, Duncan humiliates himself in front of his shiny, new crush -- a blonde bombshell named Jenna. Her meathead ex-boyfriend Troy tries to pummel him into the ground, and that's no fun for anyone. Oh, and then mini-monsters start swarming the school. Um, Duncan clues in that he can breathe fire. His dad storms over to a house party to drag him home, which wouldn't be all that strange if his father weren't over a hundred feet tall and hadn't trashed a couple city blocks in the process. And talk about corporal punishment! Dragons don't ground their kids; they throw 'em into molten lava and warn them about in-fighting among the Kaiju for control over what's left of their race. Actually, that's just Bellac's way of prepping Duncan for what's to come. The war between humans and Kaiju has been dormant for sixteen years, but it's about to be sparked again, and should he fall, Bellac wants Duncan to be prepared to take his place. Geez. Kind of a lot to heap on a sixteen year old. I don't know what's stressing him out more: being caught in the crossfire of warring dragons or asking his dream girl out to Homecoming.
I really do want to like Firebreather. After all, it's based on a comic written by the more-than-a-little-bit awesome Phil Hester, and this adaptation is directed by Peter Chung of Aeon Flux fame. Part of the problem is that it's not really the movie it pretends to be. No, it's
It's not that Firebreather is bad or anything...it just feels like something I've seen many, many times before, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that about the comic it's based on. The "movie" feels like such a tease for a TV series that it's kind of shaky when left standing on its own -- rushed and incomplete. The human character designs aren't as exaggerated or inspired as I'd expect from director Peter Chung, although the much more inventive looking Kaiju more than make up for it. The character designs may not scream "Peter Chung!", but the direction otherwise certainly does. Even though Firebreather is dragged down by a really light budget and some surprisingly choppy animation, it frequently still looks great thanks to Chung's choices of extreme, unconventional angles. As you'd probably hope for in a movie with a firebreathing dragon hybrid, hundred foot-plus tall creatures, and military might that's spent sixteen years waiting to flex its muscles, there's a lot of action, and that's all extremely well done.
Firebreather is a pretty decent way to kill sixtysomething minutes, but it's too routine to really recommend shelling out any money to buy, especially since it doesn't feel like much of a movie in the first place. Rent It.
At least up to a point, Firebreather looks about as good as its lean made-for-TV budget allows. The computer-rendered animation is definitely crisp, showing off a pretty nice sense of texture and detail, and its colors also pack a wallop. The downside is...well, the same thing that creeps into pretty much all of Warner's animated titles. Firebreather's AVC encode is saddled with an anemic bitrate, and the image is littered with compression artifacts, posterization, and very heavy banding. Expand the image below up to full-size for one case-in-point. That's a particular nasty shot, sure, but you'll see similar hiccups in all the other screengrabs scattered across this review too. If you have a smallish TV or sit really far away, you'll probably never notice, but otherwise...yikes! Very sloppy authoring.
Firebreather is dished out on a single-layer Blu-ray disc but leaves about half of the space available completely untouched. That's...probably why the compression's such a trainwreck. Go figure! The movie's presented on Blu-ray at its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
Firebreather is packing a soundtrack with some impressively cinematic specs -- 24-bit, six-channel Dolby TrueHD audio -- but it still sounds like a movie made for the small screen. Don't get me wrong, though: the voice acting is wonderfully clean and clear, and the score fills every speaker at its fingertips. Like a lot of made-for-TV stuff, the audio is very heavily weighted up front overall. Sometimes a character will dash from the surround channels to the front mains, and the action scenes open up with effects like volleys of missiles raining down, but otherwise, it's all light atmosphere and music. I get that pretty much everyone tuning into Firebreather will be listening to it in stereo, and I guess the folks at the mixing board realized that too and didn't put all that much effort into fleshing out the surrounds. Bass response is passable but lighter than I'd hope for in a movie with 120 foot monsters stomping around, stacks of heavy artillery, and...why not?...an avalanche. My kneejerk reaction is that the audio sounds kinda thin overall. Fine but underwhelming.
No dubs or downmixes this time around. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) only.
Not much. There are
Firebreather comes packaged in a cardboard slipcover.
The Final Word
Firebreather is okay, but it plays less like a movie and more like a pilot for a really forgettable new show on one of Cartoon Network's action blocks. The $28.99 sticker price on this Blu-ray disc seems awfully steep for a not-really-a-movie that's a little over an hour long and this light on extras. You're probably better off waiting for Firebreather to pop back on Cartoon Network's high-def channel again, but if you really wanna catch the flick on Blu-ray, my vote would be to Rent It.
A Couple More Screenshots...